Aces struggle on the mound, drop fifth straight


Behind on the count and with runners at first and third, Alexandria Aces pitcher David Drinks hurled an inside fastball at the plate, hoping to jam up Baltimores Frank Florio.
Instead Florio sent the ball rocketing out of Frank E. Mann field, giving the Redbirds a first inning 3-0 lead Tuesday evening. Drinks didnt know it then, but his ill-fated pitch signaled the beginning of another long night for the Aces. 
Its real tough when you get off on the wrong foot, Drinks said. Youve got to keep pitching, but after that, in the next four innings I only gave up two runs. If that didnt happen the game would have been a lot closer.
The Redbirds would go on to shoot the Aces out of the sky, getting a sixth run off of relief pitcher Brendan Lozupone in the eighth. Baltimore left Alexandria with a 6-2 victory. 
Drinks admits he struggled on the mound. His control of the fastball, slider, changeup and curveball wasnt there, he said. Though he settled down before the end of his five-inning stint on the field, he was pitching from behind the count more often than hed have liked. 
Its a problem the citys summer wooden bat collegiate club has struggled with recently, said coach Corey Haines. The solution seems simple enough, though getting there might take some work.
[Were emphasizing] just getting ahead in the count, not falling behind, so you can throw your pitch, so you dont have to throw a fastball to the hitter, Haines said. Were just trying to get into a count [where] the pitcher can throw his pitch and make the hitter hit into the defense.
Getting into tight spots on the mound and a lackluster effort at the plate have combined to put the Aces in a funk. Theyve dropped five consecutive games against their Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League rivals and lost nine of their previous 10 matchups. 
After struggling early in the season, the Aces came within spitting distance of a .500 average, though those days seem years ago. With a 10-16 record, the Aces are 11.5 games behind Bethesda Big Train, the leagues perennial powerhouse, and have slipped into seventh place in the standings. 
Part of the problem lies with the teams batting. Theyve lost by wide margins in recent games; their best offensive showing was an 8-7 loss to the Silver Spring Takoma T-Bolts on July 2. 
The unwelcome slump at the plate carried over into Tuesday night. The Aces lineup had just four hits in nine innings. When they did make contact with the ball, it was more likely to soar into a fielders mitt.
I think we had a lot of pop-ups the last few games, Haines said. I like to tell the guys to hit it on the ground and down on the line. Its really easy to hit a pop fly so try to make them play defense. I think we have had a lot of non-quality at-bats and thats hurting the teams offense.
Again, the solution seems simple: emphasizing the ground ball, forcing opponents to make mistakes, not falling behind in the count. Haines will found out whether its working against the Rockville Express Wednesday night, after the Times deadline.